Home News Prisoner Exchange: Russia Says It Swapped Ex-US Marine, Reed, For Russian Prisoner Held In US

Prisoner Exchange: Russia Says It Swapped Ex-US Marine, Reed, For Russian Prisoner Held In US

by James Davies


Russia exchanged Trevor Reed, a former American marine held in a Russian prison for three years, for its citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year sentence in the United States on drug charges.
 
According to Al Jazeera, the prisoner swap took place on Wednesday as the result of a lengthy negotiation process, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel.
 




Russian State TV aired footage of Reed being brought to Vnukovo airport ahead of his return to the US. The exchange took place in Turkey, Reed’s father, Joey Reed, told American broadcaster CNN.
 
“The American plane pulled up next to the Russian plane and they walked both prisoners across at the same time, like you see in the movies,” he said.
 
The deal would have been a notable diplomatic manoeuvre even in times of peace. It was all the more surprising because it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the US to their lowest point in decades.
 
The White House confirmed Reed’s release with President Joe Biden saying in a statement Reed “is free from Russian detention”.
 
“I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence,” Biden said. “And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.”
 
He added the negotiations for Reed’s release “required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly”.
 
The US president did not directly name Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. He was arrested in Liberia in 2010.
 
The US Justice Department has described Yaroshenko as “an experienced international drug trafficker” who conspired to distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine around the world.
 
The swap seemed unlikely to herald any larger breakthrough between Washington and Moscow. A senior Biden administration official cautioned the negotiations centred on a “discrete set of prisoner issues” and did not represent a change to the US government’s condemnation of Russia’s violence against Ukraine.
 
“Where we can have discussions on issues of mutual interest we will try to talk to the Russians and have a constructive conversation without any way changing our approach to the appalling violence in Ukraine,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the administration.
 
Reed was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer in Moscow during a night of heavy drinking. He was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the US government has described him as unjustly detained.
 
Reporting from Moscow, Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari noted Reed launched a hunger strike in March.
 
“Reed was arrested in 2019 and charged with assaulting and endangering the life of a police officer here in Moscow,” she said. “He was given a sentence of nine years in 2020, which is close to the maximum sentence of 10 years he could have got.”
 
In a statement, the Reed family thanked Biden “for making the decision to bring Trevor home” as well as other administration officials and Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations who the family said travelled to Moscow in the hours before the Ukraine war began in hopes of securing Reed’s release.
 
“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is on his way back safely to the United States,” the family said.



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